The devastating effects of drug and alcohol addiction can affect any demographic group. While much of the focus of drug addiction and preventative measures focus on the young people of America, there are other populations within our country where addiction treatment needs to be more focused. For those in the Armed Forces, the pressures of military life can create added pressures that can lead to the abuse of drug and alcohol. The stress of being away from family and being involved or knowing they will be involved in armed conflict can steer those in uniform towards substances as a way to cope.
Drug and alcohol abuse is a concern in the military for the same reasons it’s a concern in the civilian population–and even to a greater degree. It can severely impair judgment, decision-making and problem-solving skills, learning, and memory. It can also lead to health problems as well as family and legal troubles. In order to address the issue of addiction treatment in the military, the United States Army has shifted their drug treatment policies in order to enable more soldiers to discreetly access quality substance abuse treatment and take back control of their health.
What is The U.S. Army’s New Addiction Treatment Policy?
This fall, drug and alcohol abuse programs that were once under the supervision of the Army’s Installation Management Command will gradually be shifted over to medical officials by the end of October 2016. This shifting is occurring as a result of an investigation done by USA Today in regards to the poor treatment and the increased suicide rate of soldiers who were receiving addiction treatment. Problems started to occur when addiction treatment services were shifted to the Installation Management Command which operates garrisons and lacks medical expertise.
Despite assertions that the program was running well after the shift and that a high percentage of soldiers were achieving and maintaining sobriety after completion of treatment, the USA Today investigation found there a sharp decline in the quality of care and that half of the Army’s treatment clinics fell below professional standards. As a result, a large portion of veteran treatment staff left and clinics hired unqualified directors and counselors to replace them.
The investigation also showed that since the changeover in 2010, about 90 soldiers had committed suicide within three months of receiving substance-abuse treatment and at least 31 suicides followed documented cases of substandard care. It is important to note, however, that these suicides were not directly due to poor treatment. Additionally, it was discovered that current and former clinic staff members told investigators that about half of the 7,000 soldiers screened for alcohol or drug problems last year and turned away with a clean bill of health should have been enrolled and counseled for substance abuse.
Currently, substance abuse counselors that work for the army conduct substance abuse treatment services in separate clinics on each Army base. Once the move is complete, counselors and therapy groups will be embedded with combat brigades. This will ensure that essential drug and alcohol treatment services can be more easily accessed and utilized with more anonymity.
Drug and Alcohol Abuse in the Military is a Concern
Substance abuse is a key concern for active military and veterans, and for their families. According to statistics provided in 2011 by NIDA, twenty-seven percent of Army soldiers were found to meet criteria for referral to treatment when screened within 3-4 months after returning home from service in Iraq. In the Army 2020 study that was published in 2012, it was found that any military personnel trying to keep their drug and mental health problems hidden. As a result, these problems result in such behaviors as domestic violence, which increased among military personnel by 33% from 2006 to 2011.
For those who are veterans, there is a strong correlation between substance abuse and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It is estimated that 2 of every 10 veterans who suffer from PTSD have a co-occurring substance abuse problem and that 1 in 3 veterans who seek treatment for a drug and alcohol addiction issue have a co-occurring mental disorder. By shifting care to qualified addiction professionals in a military setting, they will be better able to diagnose both substance abuse and mental health issues before they manifest deeper and get timely help to those soldiers who need it the most.
Addiction Affects Everybody
Addiction is a destroyer of all lives. No matter the occupation, family history, culture or socioeconomic status, the devastating impacts of drug and alcohol addiction causes great stress and dysfunction not only for addicts and their families but society as a whole. For those who need help, Addiction Information can provide you the information and resources you need to address and overcome your substance abuse issues. Call Addiction Information toll-free today and speak to one of our experienced and compassionate member representatives. Lifelong recovery is closer than you think.